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Royal Free nurse who left needles near vulnerable children keeps job

Royal Free nurse Thushara Kasturiratne faced a string of allegations of wrongdoing. Picture: Ed Wilcox Royal Free nurse Thushara Kasturiratne faced a string of allegations of wrongdoing. Picture: Ed Wilcox

Friday, December 20, 2013
11:00 AM

A nurse at the Royal Free Hospital who left needles and syringes in an unlocked filing cabinet near a waiting area for children with mental health problems has been allowed to keep her job.

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Thushara Kasturiratne, who faced a string of allegations of wrongdoing while employed by the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust between 2007 and 2009, stashed the dangerous medical equipment in the bottom drawer of a cabinet while working in the eating disorders service.

When challenged on the haphazard storage system, the Nursing and Midwifery Council heard the nurse failed to understand the potentially dangerous consequences.

Dr Mark Berelowitz, clinical lead in the department, said it was “self-evident” that her actions were “an accident waiting to happen”.

“She seemed to not understand that keeping them there was not safe,” he said.

“There was not a sense of ‘oh dear, thank you for pointing it out, I see what you mean and I will rectify it’.”

The panel agreed that allowing needles to be stored in an unlocked cabinet in close proximity to “vulnerable patients” put members of the public “at potential risk of harm”.

Despite also finding she had copied confidential information about one patient into the incorrect patient’s records, taken home patient notes, worked in excess of her contractual hours, and sent a letter to a teenage patient which was inappropriate in tone, the panel allowed her to continue practicing as a nurse.

She was handed a two year conditions of practice order, demanding she be supervised, attend weekly meetings and complete a return to practice course.

Addressing Ms Kasturiratne, chair Martyn Griffiths said: “The panel took into account the various aggravating and mitigating factors.

“The aggravating factors are that your actions amounted to serious misconduct which put vulnerable patients at potential risk of harm.

“Your failures in relation to record keeping related to numerous patients over a prolonged period of time.

“The mitigating factors are that you were working in an unsupportive environment with a high caseload and a lack of systems and procedures in place.

“You admitted the majority of the charges. You have shown some remorse and insight.

“You had a long and unblemished nursing career prior to these incidents; you have engaged with these proceedings and produced evidence of your attempts to keep your knowledge up-to-date whilst out of practice.”

Ms Kasturiratne, who attended the central London hearing on Tuesday, was cleared of allegations that she kept patient notes with her bank statements, attended patients alone and failed to protect patient confidentiality when transporting notes.

She claimed she had an excessive workload while working for the trust, and believes she was excluded by Dr Berelowitz when she sought help.

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